Most any visitor to Thailand quickly becomes impressed with the deep respect afforded the King of Thailand by the Thai people. If one goes back in time, a large measure of that respect is due to the actions of two great King's that each, respectively, strengthened the role of the monarchy and successfully guided Thailand through the troubled periods of each of the past two centuries.
King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, was the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri from 1853 to 1910. As many of the countries in Asia were being colonized by Western powers, King Chulalongkorn, through his policies and acts, managed to save Siam from being colonized.
The extensive modernization efforts of Rama V and immense government and social reforms were directed toward his overwhelming objective of ensuring Siam's survival in the midst of Western colonialism. He traveled extensively absorbing many modern concepts and incorporating the desirable ones into the culture and legal framework of Siam. Moreover, he met many foreign leaders and monarchs such as Queen Victoria in a state visit to Great Britain in 1897. Chulalongkorn sent numerous royal princes to Europe to be educated where they too were influenced by the liberal ideas of democracy and elections.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, has been the King of Thailand since 1946 and is the longest reigning monarch in Thai history. He is deeply revered by the people of Thailand and has provided a measure of stability particularly during the turbulent Vietnam War era and the evolution of the Thai democratic process from the time of his coronation in 1946 until the present. A little known fact is King Bhumibol was born in Boston while his father was enrolled in the Public Health program at Harvard University.
Apart from King Bhumibol's deep involvement in many social and economic development projects, he is a painter, musician, photographer, author and translator. His love of music brought him together with America's "King", Elvis Presley.
Another image of King Bhumibol is his presentation to a great man in his own right, Than Asa Boonyapratuang, the father of our good friend Khun Suphapong Boonyapraturang.
A full description of the impact of both King Chulalongkorn and King Bhumibol on the Kingdom of Thailand would require many volumes. Nonetheless, few individuals have had such an impact on any country. Clearly, Thailand would not have been the same without the vision and integrity of these two monarchs.